Most mornings for the past five years, 62-year-old Jeffrey Guterman has woken up in his Florida home, made coffee in his kitchen, and sat down at his computer to tweet out taunts to the president.
“You excreted on democracy,” he wrote recently.
“You are lower than slime,” read another sharp-witted missive.
But that beloved morning ritual ended on January 8, when Twitter suspended Donald Trump’s account — effectively nuking not only the president’s 56,000 tweets, but the platform on which a generation of quick-twitch reply-guys built their names and audiences.
Say what you will about Trump’s reply-guys, a well-known (if much-ridiculed) breed. Since the earliest days of Trump’s campaign, a devoted retinue of both critics and fans have fought to respond first to the president’s every tweet — a manic endeavor requiring, at minimum, a good Wi-Fi connection, a lot of free time, and some patience for caps-locked rants and misspellings.
Many of Trump’s early reply-guys eventually burned out or changed tactics; others have long since been booted from Twitter themselves. But dozens of otherwise ordinary anti-Trumpers, like Guterman, still draw hundreds of thousands of followers to their online tilts, and they’re facing an unclear future without their archnemesis. “I guess I’ll go read a book,” tweeted Jeff Tiedrich, perhaps the king of the reply-guys and the publisher of a leftist politics blog, in the hours after Trump’s suspension.
“It’s a new era for Twitter now,” Guterman said. “I don’t think there’s any need anymore for me to do this.”
A semi-retired mental health counselor with loosely centrist politics and an avuncular air, Guterman was the rare nontechie to join Twitter at its genesis: He opened his account in 2006 after reading an article about Obvious Corp., its corporate parent. Initially, Guterman tweeted about subjects related to his profession: addiction, depression, self-help, the occasional quote from Sigmund Freud. But as Trump’s campaign gained steam in late 2014 and 2015, Guterman became increasingly vocal about…